Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Pierre Beaulne discusses the inequality-related problems and solutions brought into the spotlight by Thomas Piketty, and notes that they can't simply be swept under the rug:
When all is said and done, the capitalist globalization has boosted economic growth for a certain time, but has by the same token greatly increased income inequalities and exacerbated wealth concentration. Tax breaks for the highest incomes and social spending cuts have intensified the trend. In Canada, for instance, the top marginal income tax rate at the federal level has gone down from 43% in 1981 to 29% in 2010, leaving more room for high-income individuals to accumulate wealth. Worldwide, the situation is so alarming that the World Economic Forum, which can certainly not be suspected of entertaining pinko tendencies, has recognized severe income inequalities to be the main social risk in its 2011 annual report Global Risks.

Thomas Piketty’s theories are obviously subject to debate, but the conclusions which he draws throughout his work and that of his associates don’t come out of left field. On the contrary, they support and enrich our understanding of numerous previous observations. His book’s success might be due to the fact that people are looking for explanations: they are unable to reconcile news of economic performance with their own financial situation, which has never before involved so much debt. For the common good, the trends identified must lead to changes in regulation and in the direction taken by governments in their economic and tax policies. Denial is not a sustainable option.
- Which isn't to say some governments won't prefer denial as a temporary option on all kinds of issues. And in a prime example, the CP reports on the Cons' refusal to include fracking chemicals on a list of pollutants (since that might serve as the basis to measure and regulate their effect on the environment).

- Marc Spooner writes that it's entirely legitimate to maintain pride in one's home while recognizing that there's room to improve - and highlights how greater focus on eliminating all kinds of inequalities would create a better Regina. And Susan Delacourt notes that we should expect politicians too to tell us the truth, rather than simply saying what's most politically convenient at a particular moment:
A couple of months ago, I spent an afternoon walking through Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood with NDP candidate Joe Cressy and municipal councillor Mike Layton, campaigning in the Trinity-Spadina byelection.

Along the way, Layton was encountering shop owners or other citizens venting their concerns and complaints about local affairs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he didn’t just tell them they were right — he pushed back, politely and respectfully, when he thought their views or facts were off-base.

It was a demonstration of the difference between simple, “retail politics” and authentic political dialogue.

Sometimes the customers — let’s call them citizens — aren’t always right. Sometimes, when they’re really wrong, the best reply is a little less oxygen or a little more sunlight.
- Meanwhile, one of Stephen Harper's long-departed spinmeisters makes it absolutely clear that the Cons aren't interested in anything of the sort - preferring being crooked as part of their jobs to dealing honestly with the public:
But the worst part of my job was having to promote and defend policies I didn’t agree with personally. When that happened, you had to do your job and toe the party line.

Don’t shed a tear, because it didn’t happen much, at least not on issues that were core to the agenda, but consider yourself fortunate if you never have to look at a camera and argue with all of your heart for something you don’t believe in. Especially when, as happens in politics, you are standing on some thin intellectual ice.

Oh, how journalists loved it when they had you in that position. “Andrew,” they’d say, “surely you don’t believe that.”

Maybe not, but it didn’t matter what I believed. I wasn’t elected. The government had an agenda and it was my job to talk about it.
Parties — and leaders — are imperfect. And so that means as a spokesperson you’ll have to go out there and occasionally fire crooked arrows, sometimes at targets you don’t believe in or care about.
- Finally, Rachel Malena-Chan argues that rather than forcing families to allocate a single leave period between two parents, a separate paid leave should be available to a secondary parent.

1 comment:

  1. I strongly disagree with your analysis of what Andrew MacDougall said in this article.

    One of the principles of a professional public service is that public servants offer advice but elected officials make decisions. Sometimes they follow the advice they are given. Sometimes they don't. The task of the public servant is then to execute that policy regardless of whether or not the policy conforms to the advice given.

    I have had occasion to be involved in that process. Sometimes my advice was taken. Sometimes it wasn't. And there were occasions (thankfully very few) where I was obligated to defend a policy which I had advised against.

    Certainly, had I believed that the policy was egregiously unethical, I would have had the option of resigning, but not every policy disagreement rises to that level.

    You appear to be advocating a fundamentally unprofessional public service, in which dissident bureaucrats would be allowed or even encouraged to brief against their Ministers. That is antithetical to a functioning democracy.